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More women requesting BRCA screening without breast cancer

Mutations in the cancer-susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 put women at a significantly higher risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer.

By
Amy Wallace
Researchers have found an increase in women getting screened for the BRCA mutation who do not have a history of breast or ovarian cancer. Photo by gopixa/Shutterstock
Researchers have found an increase in women getting screened for the BRCA mutation who do not have a history of breast or ovarian cancer. Photo by gopixa/Shutterstock

March 24 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have seen an increase in the number of women getting screened for the cancer-causing BRCA gene, even without a cancer diagnosis.

In the past, women typically were only screened for the BRCA gene after they had been diagnosed with early onset breast cancer or ovarian cancer to guide treatment.

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A gene mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes increase a woman's risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer significantly.

Since 2005, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that women considered at high-risk for breast or ovarian cancer based on personal or family history should have BRCA testing but it has not been utilized in at-risk groups.

Increased screening for the BRCA gene mutation does not necessarily mean a better diagnosis for women at risk, according to the new study.

Researchers found 60 percent of BRCA tests performed are in unaffected women compared to 2004 when only 24.3 percent performed in unaffected women.

Dr. Fangjian Guo, of the University of Texas, said the increase in testing in women with no history of breast or ovarian cancer can be attributed to increase marketing targeting to consumers and media attention.

"Next generation sequencing technologies are dramatically reducing costs for genetic testing and sequencing," Guo said in a press release. "However, current guideline and practices are not always identifying women who carry BRCA mutations."

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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